Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No.35: Jicama

Note: This week's jicama has been requested
by Anonymous!

Surprisingly sweet & crunchy, jicamas have a unique flavor that lends itself well to salads, salsas, and vegetable platters!

1. What does jicama taste like? Some say its flavor lies between that of an apple and that of a water chestnut. Sometimes they can be used to substitute chestnuts, an appreciated quality of this vegetable is that
it remains crisp even after cooking!

2. The milk jicama (jicama de leche) produces a milky juice unlike the water jicama (jicama de agua) and interestingly, both types can grow from the same seed.

3. The roots can sometimes grow to be quite large, although when they exceed the size of two fists, they begin to convert the sugars that give jicama its sweet flavor into starches, making the root somewhat woody to
the taste.

4. As mentioned, except for the root, the jicama plant, for the most part, is not edible,
but that does not mean that its other parts are not useful. The seeds in the pod contain a series of compounds that make an effective insecticide (the toxin rotenone), and they can be used as such when they are pulverized. The seeds are also used in some dermatologic preparations. The stalks, on the other hand, yield strong fibers that can be used in making fishing nets.

5. When choosing jicama at the store, look for medium sized, firm tubers with
dry roots.
Do not purchase jicama that has wet or soft spots, which may indicate rot, and don't be drawn to overlarge examples of the tuber, because they may not be as flavorful. Jicama will keep under refrigeration for up to two weeks.

NOTE! I had no idea jicamas are one of the main ingredients in a popular Malaysian treat called popiah (one of my fave snacks) as they go by a different name, here jicamas are called sengkuang! My foray into vegeland is certainly growing more interesting by the day! :D

Reference: Wikipedia, Do Unto Others Project, Fun with your food, IDPH, eons

Monday, February 16, 2009

No.34: Bitter gourd

Note: This week's bitter gourd or bitter melon has also been requested by Joana and Alda

Known as one of the most
bitter vegetables in the world,
bitter gourds have a very distingushing taste!

1. Young immature bitter gourds are the best for cooking: the skin is bright green in color, the flesh inside is white, and the seeds are small and tender. However, the pith will become sweet when the fruit is fully ripe, and the pith's color will turn red. The pith can be eaten uncooked in this state, but the flesh of the melon (fruit) will be far too tough and too bitter to be eaten anymore. (Note: Choose unripe bitter melons that are firm, like how you would a cucumber.)

2. The typical Chinese phenotype is 20 to 30 cm long, oblong with bluntly tapering ends and pale green in color,
with a gently undulating, warty surface.
The bitter melon more typical of India has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface covered with jagged, triangular "teeth" and ridges. Coloration is green or white. Between these two extremes are any number of intermediate forms. (Note: The smaller variety is more bitter than the bigger one.)

3. Clean your bitter melon under cold running water and brush with a soft vegetable brush.
To prepare, slice the melon length-wise and scoop out the seeds. To lessen the bitter flavor, soak it in salt water for about half an hour before juicing/cooking.

4. Keeping bitter melons at room temperature or with other fruits and vegetables will hasten the melon to ripen and become more bitter, due to the emission of ethylene gas.

5. A “bitter gourd face” is a common Chinese expression describing a serious or sad face.

Reference: Wikipedia, Ayurbalance, Binding Love, Evergreen Seeds, Shalomboston